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The Edtech Industry Needs To Have a Long-Term Strategy To Win the Pandemic and Its Recurrence The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown prompted most schools to identify technology-led learning avenues to ensure the continuity of education for all students

By Ritvik Kulshrestha

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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"Technology will never replace great teachers, but in the hands of great teachers, it's transformational."

– George Couros

The above-stated, forward-looking adage rings true for the edtech industry, which emerged as a gleaming ray of light for students, teachers, and institutes since the near-immediate shift to remote learning in early 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown prompted most schools to identify technology-led learning avenues to ensure the continuity of education for all students. It significantly accelerated the integration of technology into our traditional education system in the form of online learning, game-based learning and assessment, and much more. It is no surprise, then, that the Indian edtech industry, which was valued at $750 million in 2020, is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 39.77 per cent to $4 billion by 2025.

Against this backdrop, let us look at the challenges that edtech platforms face and how they can overcome them to thrive in the future.

Challenges faced by the EdTech industry

Lack of personalized curriculum teaching and attention: Apart from that, in traditional teaching methods, students sit in front of the teacher and can directly resolve their problems by asking questions, and teachers can also keep an eye on the kids. However, 'attention' is a critical challenge in online education. When taking online lessons, children have the freedom to mute their microphones and get up and wander away from their class. In addition, low-income families lack the resources and cannot access digital educational platforms. As a result, making learning engaging and inclusive is a problem.

Privacy and safety concerns: Additionally, parents and students have no idea whether an online learning tool is safe and effective, making them anxious about the future. They are also hesitant to use an EdTech platform because of privacy concerns. This puts the onus on edtech companies to ensure their platforms are built with privacy concerns in mind.

Digital literacy: Though technological advancements are occurring rapidly in the education sector, not every teacher is comfortable or knowledgeable about conducting online classes and using the edtech tools. Furthermore, the future of work and learning will be digital, so edtech faces the challenge of promoting digital literacy.

Above all, schools have started to reopen, and offline classes are gradually resuming. As a result, Indian edtech companies risk losing their market share, forcing them to rethink their strategies. They've realized that they'll need to go beyond anticipating demand shifts to stay relevant.

The Long-term strategies that can help the EdTech industry thrive in the future

Tech integration to reduce screen time and make learning personalized: Edtech should focus on tech integration to manage the time and efforts of a learner. It can save students from wasting time on screens looking for assignments or study materials because everything is available on one platform. Furthermore, incorporating tools to monitor screen time or device usage would help in ensuring that children spend their time on productive activities. Besides this, by leveraging futuristic technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), edtech platforms can develop content for students that corresponds to their cognitive responses, making it more personalized and student-centred. Various applications of technologies across content formats allow students to study with a guided approach and gain a thorough understanding of subjects. Apart from that, AI-based solutions may provide educators with meaningful insights into student strengths and weaknesses and make intelligent AI-driven predictions, recommendations for greater learning accuracy, and constructive feedback. Predictive analytics will enhance a learner's performance by offering content based on his needs and challenges.

Incorporating gamification into the curriculum: Making learning enjoyable is a real and proven benefit of incorporating games into the curriculum. Animation and gamified content are making teaching-learning more interactive and visually stimulating. Hence, edtech platforms should strive to push the boundaries of gamified learning. They can incorporate online and virtual reality games into lectures, as using this form of learning to model real-world situations allows for simulated real-world experiences. Learning through entertainment supports a more holistic approach to knowledge acquisition, which keeps students engaged. This will increase the overall level of interaction between students and teachers and make learning interactive and engaging.

Imparting data protection literacy: With data privacy becoming paramount, it is the responsibility of the edtech organizations to guarantee that sophisticated systems, procedures, and programmes are in place to fight against cyber-attacks, data breaches and data infringements. Apart from that, edtech needs to educate everyone, including parents/guardians, students, and teachers, about secure tool configuration and data usage to acquaint them with how to stay safe in today's high-tech world.

Empowering teachers and schools: The major pillar of any school is its teachers. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) annual State of the Education Report, India's educational system still lacks enough teachers and struggles with a low student-teacher ratio, with 69 per cent of teachers working without contracts. Hence, there is a need for teacher capacity building in India to enrich teachers with knowledge in their discipline and pedagogy, bring out the best in every teacher, and enhance teaching and learning. As a result, in the expanding edtech ecosystem, platforms must focus on upskilling educators. They should empower teachers with 21st-century skills like critical thinking, communication, and technology literacy through skill enhancement workshops and access to exclusive products to help them keep pace with the fast-changing, tech-savvy world and boost employability. This will ultimately pave the way for a more streamlined, productive, and forward-looking education system, conducive to the development of educators and students alike.

Ease of use of edtech: Over 80 per cent of the world's population owns a smartphone, and the number is steadily increasing, expected to reach 7.5 billion users by 2024. This gives an opportunity for edtech platforms to better connect with users without geographical boundaries. User-friendly, accessible, inexpensive, and engaging platforms can go a long way in creating a cohesive education system that caters to every student. Moreover, an integrated edtech platform where teachers, students, and schools are free to collaborate will be a major step towards breaking down the existing silos to create a unified education system where school curriculums, the educators' goals, and students' progress are completely in sync.

Industry collaboration: Hybrid is a new normal in both work and education. The future is not about more schools but rather about learning to be imparted from anywhere and everywhere. Understanding this, schools are concentrating on implementing the right mix of digitally enabled educational solutions, which EdTech companies can facilitate. This will improve the quality of education and increase access to education. In line with global trends, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 also highlights that the digitalization of schools and teachers will need constant and vital interventions from the edtech. Thus, edtech companies can steer the industry by collaborating with schools to ensure educational continuity and streamline digital learning.

Considering the recurrent nature of COVID-19 waves and on the back of India's ever-increasing adoption of new tech, a hybrid model is the next natural progression of the education ecosystem. Edtech players have the potential to place the country ahead of the curve by extending high-quality learning experiences to students in every corner of the country. By the constant, future-fit evolution of its multifaceted tools and services, the edtech ecosystem can ensure excellent education for all.

Ritvik Kulshrestha

Chief executive officer, Extramarks Education

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